Author Archives: Damon (Editor)

Wedding retouches – the five most common techniques

Wedding retouches are essential to great results. Of course, they can be a challenging aspect of wedding photography. Every professional photographer has at least tried retouching their work. However, wedding specialists are particularly under pressure to provide the perfect image of the newlyweds. Specialists in the wedding genre, who also excel at retouches, are rare. The work is sometimes complex and often a tedious procedure. Each part of the work is important. There are no shortcuts. But, you have to do the work if you want perfect results.

[The article today is by Sara Reinhard, Wedding-Retouching.comBio]

The clone stamp can be used to do a wide range of wedding retouches

The clone stamp can be used to do a wide range of wedding retouches

Application and experience

There is a great variety of editing programs that can be applied to solve retouching tasks. Of those, Adobe Photoshop remains an undeniable leader. This application has proved its great usability, wide range of options and graphic potential.

The techniques I have chosen are by the way of experiment and developed through my experience. I hope that this list will help your workflow and make your life easier. With a good start, and practice you can really make an impact with your digital wedding retouches.

Wedding retouches – 1. Develop the picture in Raw

To get the best results with editing you should always work in RAW. This format allows the greatest manipulation of the data in the file. The common *.jpg file has very limited ability to make changes.

The first thing to work on is adjusting tone, temperature and exposure. This is done early in the process. Good skin tone and colour temperature are important. Of course, applying them is not obligatory and I use them only if I need them. This work involves a variety of sliders and largely depends on adjustment by eye. You have to develop your colour sense over time. So practice and careful observation of true colours and light are important. (See: Using curves for skin tones – Google search Using curves for skin tones - Google search | External link - opens new tab/page).

With editing wedding photos, I focus on shadows and highlights next. To make wedding images look realistic and natural, I usually try to make the highlights dull. Bring down the brightness on the highlights only a little. At the same time bring the visible shadows back from black. Flatten them so the visible shadows are not distracting. It is ideal for wedding photo edits when all shadows are as flat as mid-tones. That gives the most realistic result.

This procedure, toning deep shadows and highlights, helps make my later work in Photoshop faster and easier. When I get it all right, the image will have a perfect contrast. If I do not tone the lights and darks before starting, adding changes and effects later can ruin a photo. Correct basic contrast levels are so important.

Wedding retouches – 2. The Healing brush! Mask imperfections

The healing brush is an effective tool when editing wedding portraits or guests pictures. There are two variants. You may use either the common Healing brush or Spot healing brush. I prefer the first. The reason is simple. I like to choose my own color source points. This brush is effective in masking all kinds of skin inconsistencies from acne to permanent scars or birthmarks. The healing brush produces a masking effect over the blemish. It takes its mask colour from the surrounding area, or a point of colour of your choosing.

The healing brush is just as effective for removing the spots in other places in the image. Removing facial marks are important. It is also handy when I need to improve the backdrop of a picture. I am amazed how an image changes after simple background work with this brush. Often people do not notice individual spots and marks in an image. However, they certainly notice when the image is crisp and clean. The careful use of this brush really improves the overall impact of the shot. (Learn about the healing brush: Using the Healing Brush – Google search Wedding retouches - Using the healing brush | External link - opens new tab/page).

Wedding retouches – 3. The clone stamp

This is the quickest way to change the level of lightness or darkness in parts of a photo. I mostly apply this technique to lighten the dark areas in a photo. Basically, it is used on the background, but you can use it on the skin too. I use an opacity of 15%. Unlike the healing brush tool, the clone stamp is best used on the areas that do not have many details. For instance, it works well on landscape backgrounds, limited texture, or areas of a single tone.

Using the clone stamp can be pretty harsh at 100% opacity. At 15% it is barely visible. So, once you have selected the opacity you want then also select the mode as “lighten” or “darken”. In this mode the clone tool will do what it says, lightens or darkens the area it affects. It has the added bonus of not affecting areas around it that are the opposite to the selection you have made. (See: Lighten Up with the Clone Tool Wedding retouches - Lighten Up with the Clone Tool | External link - opens new tab/page).

Wedding retouches – 4. Dodge and burn

That is one of my favorite photo editing techniques. To be able to shape the visible light in a picture is brilliant. Photoshop has versatile ways to do this. I don’t use the actual tools for dodge and burn over wide areas of the image. I simply make the exposure brighter with one curve, and use a second curve to bring out the darker tones. That is better for making the overall contrast give a feeling of depth in the image. (See: Using curves in Photoshop – a Google search Wedding retouches - Using curves in Photoshop - a Google search | External link - opens new tab/page).

Dodge and Burn as well as Healing Brush  techniques are essential

Every photographer should use these tools for wedding retouches


From time to time I use the actual dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. They are better for more detailed work. Why do I like them as a professional wedding photo editor? I can set the mid-tones, shadows and highlights quite easily. I have noticed that for wedding pictures the most effective use is to add depth. That is possible by bringing out the lighter areas and toning down the darker areas where lights and darks lie close to one another. The obvious transition from light to dark in close proximity causes the eye to see depth. To use the subtle effects of these tools use the ‘Range’ and ‘Exposure’ drop-down settings on the Photoshop top bar.

Wedding retouches – 5. Frequency separation

There are plenty of photo editing tips for improving the skin condition. For wedding pictures, I am convinced that perfect skin is a keystone of success. The problem is that it is a very intense task. This technique makes the skin smooth. Still, it should be used in moderation. If you smooth out the skin too much it looks unnatural. The technique brings effective results in enhancing backdrops, clothes or other parts of the image that need smoothing. Try it on your own images. You will find it a great technique. However, it takes a lot of practice. Once learned it provides a solid way of preserving skin texture but taking out some of the more distracting aspects of tones, highlights and blotches. Have a look at the video below.

Two more techniques for great wedding retouches

Using layer masks

When I retouch pictures, I want every effect to be applied to a specific part of the photo. That is because every thing has different colors, tones and relationships with the surrounding areas. To successfully keep a natural feel I work with layer masks a lot. Each change I make has to be specific and effective. Layer masks allow me to isolate these specific parts of the image without my work spilling onto surrounding areas. The layer mask makes it easy, and quick to isolate each area I need to work with to make the changes.

Furthermore, when using different layers, your changes will not have a global effect. You can limit each change to a specific layer. I often add filters and dodge and burn on different layers. That too saves time and makes the overall task simpler.

Here is a little secret. I often edit a background and a photographed subject on different layers. I use layer masking to take out the photo-subject onto another layer. This allows separate toning and other treatments.

When you are using layer masks, it is important to remember while toning that the black colour conceals and the white colour reveals. (See: Working with layer masks in photoshop Wedding retouches - working with layer masks in photoshop | External link - opens new tab/page – Google search).

Blending modes – a versatile choice

Commonly, editors overlook blending modes. They appear to be complex. But actually, they give you a lot of creative scope. It is really worth having a go with them.

There are 27 possible blending modes (including ‘Normal’). They can be used in many ways. Basically, they allow you to blend something on a selected layer with an image below it. Blending modes change the way layers interact. The layers remain separate. Your image is quite safe! You actually just see the image with the “blend” laid over the image.

For wedding retouches, there is a high level of romantic impact. So, you can use blending modes to bring texture, tones, colours and hues into your image. Using overlays this way, allows you to raise the artistic and emotional impact. You can use textures in Photoshop templates or, there are a wide range of textures available on the Internet Photoshop textures - Google images | External link - opens new tab/page.

Here is a great video. It introduces the gentle art of using blend modes. They are not nearly as intimidating as they sound!

There is a lot to learn. Therefore, the best idea is to experiment both with the choice available and the opacity you use.

I have a favourite blending mode – ‘soft light’. It suits my tastes and photo preferences. From time to time I experiment and change curves to appealing ‘luminosity’ mode. It adds an elusive charm to wedding pictures.

An amazing world of opportunities

All these techniques, in skillful hands, provide results beyond the expectation of the original. They are powerful enough to change a photo in the most unbelievable way. Still, I ask you to use these techniques with care and attention. It is too easy to be over the top and spoil the effect.

Concerning wedding pictures it is especially important to preserve naturalness. Thus, it is better to add less rather than to over retouch. If you are experimenting, take my advice. It is best to use a separate layer for each effect or tool that you apply. That allows you to cancel changes you have made by deleting the layer. And, never make changes to your original. Always keep your original file as a safe back up file. Work only on a copy.

One further point. The presented pictures above were taken with natural light. That is important with wedding retouches. Why? Because the bulk of contemporary wedding photo shoots are held outside. It is quite expensive and difficult to adjust natural light. Modern photographers are used to professional editors improving imperfect light digitally.

If you are worried about the level of your skill when doing wedding retouches, or other digital work, our team are happy to help. If you face some unsolved editing problem, we also will give a supporting hand. (Wedding-Retouching.com My company is Wedding-Retouching.com | External link - opens new tab/page)

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Post contributed by :: Sara Reinhard

Sara works at “Wedding Photo Editing Service”, a leader in picture editing since 2003. They have a team of experts that edit wedding photos. The service works to tight deadlines and high quality standards. The photo retouchers work directly to support photographers through every photo order. They work directly with photographers to build professional relations offering wedding photo editing at all levels and varied styles. The business also offers photo editing in other forms of photography, such as body, portraits or family pictures. A range of editing services are available at modest prices.
Wedding-Retouching.com Wedding-Retouching.com | External link - opens new tab/page

Making an abstract image – opening your eyes

A personal path to making an abstract by Alison Bailey
Interplay By Alison Bailey.

Abstract image :: Interplay.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365project.org Interplay By Alison Bailey | External link - opens new tab/page
Dated: 15/01/2017
Click picture to see full size image.

I became serious about photography through doing a 365 project My 365Project | External link - opens new tab/page in 2011. I got my first DSLR camera for Christmas that year and have been happily obsessed ever since.

At the end of 2014 I had a eureka moment: abstract photography was for me. It’s ideal for depicting what moves me most in my world – the aesthetics of the characteristics of things. Abstract photography’s exciting, exasperating, exhausting and exhilarating. I love it. I hope you will too.

Making an abstract image

Abstraction is intensely personal and one of the most imprecise art forms. There are no recommended settings or specific lenses that will produce an ‘ideal result’. The accepted ‘rules’ of composition are often deliberately broken or disregarded. There’s no magic formula that will guarantee success. This article aims to provide you with thoughts, ideas and suggestions, along with information about how I work. These may help you to make an abstract image or gain experience to make many of them.

Groundwork

I began my journey by researching exactly what is meant by ‘abstract’. I didn’t find a universally accepted definition. The definition of abstract photography in the Photokonnexion glossary hits the spot for me. It is easy to understand and includes a list of the different aspects of abstraction. It makes a great reference guide for use in the field. I re-read it occasionally for revision.

When I think about an abstraction, what I see in front of me is not manifested in my mind’s eye. Well, not as a picture. I don’t ‘see’ – I experience. Things come to me as impressions with verbal descriptions. I have recently learned that when people say they ‘see’, it’s not shorthand for a thought process that’s like mine. They really do make pictures in their heads. I first thought we all imagine in the same way. It seems that is not true. ‘Seeing’ an abstract is an intensely personal thing. You have to do it your own way.

Studying, analysing and commenting other people’s work teaches you a lot. So, I researched the idea of the ‘abstract image’ on the internet. I viewed many abstracts, examining their composition. I had fun, gained insight into what abstracts can look like and developed ideas and personal preferences too.

The next step toward making an abstract image

I began habitually looking everywhere for shapes, structures, patterns, lines and textures. I looked for them whether I was taking photos or going about daily life.

Then it was time to put what I’d learned into practice.

If you’re unsure where to begin, here are some ideas to get you started. Three dimensional artworks can be inspirational. They are a good choice for the abstract image novice. Less representational work is particularly suitable. Find a piece you like and can legitimately photograph. The artist’s concept and execution of it will give you some useful pointers. However, your appreciation of the work is key to how you interpret it. Beyond works of art, here are some other sources…

  • Look at items in your house. The kitchen is a great source of inspiration.
  • Is there a type of photography you are especially enthusiastic about?
  • Architecture: plenty of lines, shapes and patterns, often textures too.
  • Street scenes (people and/or transport) have many abstract sides.
  • Wildlife and fast-action sports photography lend themselves to expressing movement through abstraction.
  • Macro photography shares an emphasis on detail so it too lends itself to abstract image work.

Keeping an open mind and expecting to find a promising subject is a good recipe for success. The more you look for subjects, the more you will see, sometimes in unlikely places. Whatever you choose, it is important it moves you in some way. A way that makes you care about it.

Rhythmic - I spotted this chair stack in an out-of-the-way corner of an historic cathedral.

Abstract Image :: “Rhythmic”
I spotted this chair stack in an out-of-the-way corner of an historic cathedral. Their lines caught my eye. I felt they had a rhythmic quality.
Breaking the pattern, a compositional device often used to focus the eye, wasn’t appropriate here. The rhythm – the whole point of the image – would have been lost.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project.org Abstract Image :: Rhythmic | External link - opens new tab/page
Dated: 10/07/2015.
Click picture to see full size image.

Studying the details

Once you find something meaningful to you, examine it closely from all angles. You are looking for a way to portray it.

This is a process that cannot be rushed or forced. It is important to be relaxed and receptive. Take a long, leisurely look, soaking up the details. Ask yourself:

  • What do I feel about this?
  • What visual aspects – lines, shape, texture, etc – make me feel that way?
  • How can I present, compose, those aspects to engage viewers and tell them what I saw?

Look carefully. Allow the answers to those questions, and any other ideas that might occur, time to form in your mind. For the best results, keep these answers and ideas in mind at all stages of making an image.

I study a subject via the camera’s viewfinder to remove distractions from the periphery of my vision. I often take photos at this stage too; the act of pressing the shutter button helps me think.

Layers upon layers :: Detail of a sculpture comprising seven pillars of piles of slates.

Abstract Image :: “Layers upon layers”
Detail of a sculpture comprising seven pillars of piles of slates. The profusion of layers and the arrangement of the slates are wonderful. I spent nearly an hour looking and studying them. The light – bright, midday sunshine – cast hard shadows that define and separate the slates and augment the idea of profusion. I composed to create opposing diagonals that prevent a jumbled confusion of lines by drawing the elements together.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Layers upon layers | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 20/11/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

Making the abstract image

Choice of lenses, use of light, camera settings and how close you can get to your subject are all factors to take into account when composing your abstract image.

It’s usually not possible for me to use a tripod or flash. I prefer natural or constant, artificial light, anyway. So I have to work round resulting restrictions. You should consider how best to make use of light, depth of field, angle, and point of focus. A good angle and an appropriate focal point can make or break the flow of a composition. That is especially true with a shallow depth of field.

I have discarded many shots owing to poor choice of focal point. I still struggle with it. However, an effective composition is important. So it is worth the effort to get the focal point right.

Once you are satisfied with your composition, take a photo, maybe several. It is good to experiment with other settings and angles, you might discover another approach to your subject that is more meaningful to you than your original idea.

Abstract image :: “Thorny subject”.

I had intended to compose for the spiral created by the arrangement of the leaves of this plant but realised I was more taken with its thorns. I angled to emphasise them whilst, again, looking for a cohesive composition. To emphasise the spikiness of the thorns stronger tonal contrasts were created in processing.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Thorny Subject | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 30/09/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

Assessing your work

After you download your photographs, consider and critique them. Take time to do this.

Don’t delete a shot straight away; experience might alter your opinion of it. If I am uncertain, I reassess a photo periodically, sometimes processing it, until I feel sure about it. I’m still mulling over a few taken a year or more ago.

Got a keeper? Then it’s time to add the finishing touches.

From photograph to abstract image

Thoughtful processing will take your photograph to another level. How this is achieved is very much a matter of personal taste.

I almost always process in black and white. Colour isn’t usually what my images are about. For me it will distract the viewer’s eye from the aesthetic aspects that I want to express, weakening the image’s impact. Other authors may take a different avenue. Final processing is very much a personal style.

I often choose to use high tonal contrasts to accentuate, even exaggerate, detail (see Thorny Subject above). My preferred method is to enhance clarity in the image processor’s ‘raw’ filter when developing the image for *.jpg. Then I adjust contrast, brightness and light levels in the main editor.

Whatever you do, the aim is to enhance your composition for maximum impact. You should work to help engage viewers with the aesthetics of your subject and give them the best chance of understanding the artistic intent of your image.

More after this…

The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page
There are few good books on abstract photography. So this historical view is welcome. It brings together the concepts and the art in abstract photography. Spanning the earliest images to modern processes with quality colour pictures too, the book includes up-to-date work from well known abstract photographers. The book gives readers an all-round view.
What readers said:
» Great buy! :: 5*
» A lovely book :: 5*
» Be educated and stimulated :: 5*
» …filled with deep and insightful articles and ideas to inspire. :: 5*
The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page

 

Completing the abstract image

Abstract image :: “Internal structure”
A macro image and a personal favourite. High contrast wasn’t appropriate here. I love the the way this whelk shell is constructed. The fragility of its exterior (suggested by the light tones) belies the strength of the internal structure, brought out by contrast created with natural, diffused light.
On reassessing, I felt the right-hand curve was drawing my eye down out of the frame, so I cropped the bottom of the image to draw the eye back to the pillar.
By Alison Bailey.
Seen on: 365Project Abstract Image :: Internal structure | External link - opens new tab/page
Date: 02/11/2016.
Click picture to see full size image.

After a day or two, I reassess my image. I take time to let the initial pride of authorship fade. Then, if needed, I do whatever is necessary to improve it. Any processing you want is allowable. It could even mean scrapping the image and starting again. It’s frustrating but not daunting; mistakes are excellent teachers and I want to learn and improve.

If that sounds serious, it is. But, it’s seriously tremendous fun. Happy abstraction!

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Post contributed by :: Alison Bailey

Alison is a veteran participant in 365Project.org 365project.org | External link - opens new tab/page. She worked as an assistant librarian and a Civil Servant before becoming a traditional housewife and mother. She enjoys life with her retired husband – and her camera. Alison has at last realised that photography is the medium best suited to her artistic abilities. She is having serious fun striving to express, through her images, her love of, and fascination with, the world around her.

Landscape photography problems – think clearly, think ahead

Landscape photography can be a cold and lonely pursuit. What are you likely to face.

Landscape photography can be a cold and lonely pursuit. What are you likely to face? Carefully consider the implications of Landscape photography problems you will encounter.

Landscape photography problems are not your first thought!

I have done my fair share of landscape photography over the years. As a lover of great open areas and natural scenery I have done a lot of thinking about the problems of photography in the wilds. I think, maybe, that we often think about the simple pleasure of being in a great landscape and making a successful shot. The pleasure over comes the pain. Success provides the gratification we need.

With the occasional success, we also forget the cold, the wet, the waiting, even the cost. Many other things also get in your way. Success only comes when you do things right when trying for your landscape shot. Here are some things for you to think about.

What are the Landscape photography problems?

First of all, your planning. Most snappers think about landscape photos when they are there, in the moment, seeing the landscape. Actually, you will have few successes down that route if you are a committed photographer. You should have a clear idea of your whole trip to get truly great shots squared off.

What exactly do you want to shoot? What short of shot do you want? Do you have the time right – is the sun going to give you the right light, or even be present? Weather? Location? What do you really want to see and how do you want it illuminated? All these questions might require either an intimate knowledge of the location, or a lot of online research. The best landscape shots are previsualised (see also: Definition: Previsualised) and researched in advance of the trip. That way the elements of chance, site hunting and waiting for the right light are reduced.

If you think you have the time of year, day and hour planned to get the right light, are you able to take the shot you want? Your equipment needs planning too. Lenses are especially important to the landscaper. Think too of a decent tripod, filters, batteries, and a whole host of other equipment. So plan the shot logistics carefully. You need to make sure you don’t turn up at your location and find yourself unable to make the shot.

Do you have the personal equipment? Do you need to climb? What weather will you face – hot or cold weather? How hot, how cold? Are you able to get the right clothes, the maps, the food, even the transport to get you there? Budget can be a big issue for all the equipment and transport too.

On the personal safety side, are you safe? Do you need special safety equipment? Do you have the skills? Mountains and deserts, coasts and fens all need very different skill sets to stay safe. Many people have lost their lives failing to anticipate the conditions and have the right equipment with them.

Perseverance gets you past landscape photography problems

Have you got it all perfectly planned? You think you have all the landscape photography problems overcome in advance. Then on the appointed day it all goes wrong. Why? Because the shot you want needs the right light. Planning the right time can help you get past that. Unfortunately the weather is not always so forgiving. That is especially true in the more challenging zones of the world.

In my mind I have a shot I want to make. I once saw the conditions of this location just right. Total inspiration hit me. Wow, just what I wanted. But, and it was a big one, my camera was in the hotel. I metaphorically kicked my own posterior. Anyway, I decided I was going to return and get the shot another day. Well, I have been to that location over 30 times in the last 25 years. I’ve never again seen the shot with the light I want. However, it will be there one day. And, I will get it.

Ansel Adams, the great landscape photographer once said,

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.

Ansel Adams

More Ansel Adams quotes  Landscape photography problems - Ansel Adams Quote | External link - opens new tab/page

Landscape work is like that. If you have been very lucky you may get a great shot. If not, you could be really up against the conditions or time limits. This is where your planning can pay off, or your persistence – more likely both. How ever you may have to run your trip many times to get it right. That is the essence of getting to know your location, yourself and your limits.

The ugly side of landscape photography problems

In the video below is a day in the life of a failed image. If you are hoping to get a shot in a location you are not familiar with I suggest you watch this. If you are hoping to get into landscapes, the video can give you an insight. There is more than a quick snap behind the successful shot. It also reveals the harsh reality of Landscape photography problems for one man in the English Lake District.

One day is often not enough for “the one” shot. Dedicated landscapers often spend many days on looking for the shot they want. Ansel Adams, mentioned above, was also aware of the rareness of great images. He said,

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.

Ansel Adams

More Ansel Adams quotes  Landscape photography problems - Ansel Adams Quote | External link - opens new tab/page

This hit rate is not as far fetched as it seems.

So, while you watch this video, remember, the best landscape shots come with previsualisation, planning and persistence.


Uploaded by: Thomas Heaton  Landscape photography problems | External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training courses in digital photography.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Low light action shots – tips for getting them right

“Low light action shots” is contributed by Melanie Hyde (Bio) of PaintShopPro.com Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Low light action shots need care to get them right.

Action photography itself can be extremely challenging. Being in the perfect place at just the right time, capturing that incredible moment. Then, hoping to transport anyone who sees your photo across time and space to take them back to the moment the image was taken. It’s a truly a magical experience, whether you’re taking the picture or the viewer.

Given the challenges that come with action photography, removing most of the light only makes it all the more difficult.

There is good news. The same principles of action photography and proper exposure apply. It’s just a little more challenging to get those low light action shots.

Light sources for your low light action shots

When it comes to taking low light action photos, you’ll need to combine the available light sources. This will help to make the most of the situation. First, take a look around and identify whether the lighting is constant or variable.

Constant Light

Constant light occurs within your setting when you can isolate out a source for a shot. Framing the shot is important so that the light is consistent for that shot. The next shot may have a different source – you need to isolate the light for that too. For example, if you were shooting a wedding reception, you might capture an image of the bride and groom on the dance floor. Then, you turn around and capture an image of the bride’s parents dancing across the room. Depending on the setting, the lighting may be different between the two subjects but consistent within each shot.

When lighting is consistent, operating your camera becomes much easier. The camera can adjust to meet the needs of the low light action shots. Here are a few points to keep in mind when shooting with constant low light:

  • Shoot in shutter priority mode so the camera can adjust.
  • Use Auto White Balance so the camera can adjust.
  • Manually control your ISO.
Variable light

Variable light occurs when light sources are constantly changing and are inconsistent across your field of view. Imagine you’re photographing the lead singer at a rock concert. You may have to deal with strobes, spotlights and pyrotechnics. The constant changes in light sources will cause your camera to struggle to automatically expose the image correctly.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera - go manual.

Low light action shots with variable light sources can confuse your camera – go manual.

When dealing with variable light conditions it’s usually best to go manual. In this situation, remember to:

  • Manually set your aperture and shutter speed.
  • Manually set your White Balance.
  • Manually set your ISO.
Balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO

You have three ways to control the way your camera exposes an image. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. To successfully capture great low light action shots, you must be able to manipulate these elements. Select settings that allow you to capture the highest quality image for the ambient light conditions.

The exposure triangle helps you to keep your shot’s exposure within the capability of the camera and lens. So when going manual your settings should allow these three essentials to balance. Look in your viewfinder to get the needle settled in the centre for a proper exposure. For more detail check out The Exposure Triangle – An aid to thinking about exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

The exposure triangle is an idea that helps you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO for a good exposure.

Start with shutter speed

Low light action shots are by definition going to be in difficult light for your camera. Getting your shutter speed right can be tricky. However, it has a huge impact when shooting movement in low light. The following diagram will help you select the right setting.

Camera shutter speed guide.

Camera shutter speed guide :: Low light action shots need the right camera speed. If the shutter speed is too low you get blurring.

You have to select a speed that is fast enough to capture the motion clearly and without blur. The speed should still slow enough to deal with the lack of light. For action shots, it’s always best to use the fastest shutter speed that the light allows. It is a balancing act so you will need to practice.

Select the widest aperture for your low light action shots

In action photography, capturing crisp and clean images is usually the priority. When shooting with low light settings, it’s crucial to get as much light to your sensor in the small amount of time that your shutter is open as possible.

For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

The aperture sets the initial amount of light coming into the lens. For low light action shots use a wide aperture to increase the incoming light.

To accomplish this, use the widest aperture that your camera allows. While shooting in shutter priority mode, you allow your camera to do this automatically. Shooting in manual mode however, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your exposure. You need to make sure that your images are not underexposed in the low light.

Using high ISO

Are your images are consistently coming out blurry with your aperture is as wide as can be? Consider stepping up your ISO settings.

Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

On the dance floor the light is almost always difficult. Your low light action shots can really win the day if you get your ISO right.

By changing your ISO, you alter your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more exposed your image will be. Just be cautious: using a higher ISO may introduce more “noise” to your photos. This noise can often be reduced or corrected in a post-processing software like PaintShop Pro Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page or Lightroom Low light action shots | External link - opens new tab/page. (Shooting in RAW is especially helpful with noise reduction).

Check your work as you go

Throughout the shoot, use your histogram. (See: Can you use the histogram on your camera?) It will help to make sure you’re exposing your images correctly. The histogram shows the distribution of the type of light in your shot. It aims to help you capture a consistent amount of light across the full spectrum of your image.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

The histogram on your camera helps you ensure effective use of light in your exposure.

You’ll also want to make sure that your white balance looks good and adjust accordingly. In most cases, your camera is going to be able to set white balance automatically, but you may need to tweak it; especially if your lighting is wildly inconsistent.

Increase your odds

Low light action shots are all about being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment.

Use the fastest lens you can find. The wider the aperture, the more light your lens allows to strike your camera sensor. Anything higher than F2.8 will cause you to struggle with exposure.

Set the camera to continuous drive. This equips your camera to capture a burst of images every time you press the shutter release and gives you a better chance of capturing that perfect picture.

Use a fast memory card. Your camera can only capture images as fast as it can write them to the memory card. If you snap too many images in rapid succession, you’ll have to wait for the card to catch up with your camera and you might miss “the shot.”

Be prepared to shoot…a lot. You’re going to have a lot of images that are no good. So remember to keep tinkering with your settings. The key is shooting lots of images at different settings until you get the perfect mix.

Don’t forget to have fun

Low light action photography can be both challenging and fulfilling. As you refine your skills and your eye for lighting, action, and composition, remember to regularly experiment and try new settings.

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Famous Failures – how you can equal the greatest

Famous failures - How to equal the greatest - it's simple! A video and how to succeed ideas.

Famous failures – How to equal the greatest – it’s simple! A video and how to succeed ideas.

Famous Failures – Some surprises

The main reason that we become successful at something is that we work at it. In history there have been many famous failures. They failed at their chosen goal early on. Then they went on to be successful at the very thing they failed at first-off.

In this video you can see who some of these famous failures are. I think you will be surprised. For us as photographers, we need to think about what these fails mean for us. More after the video (3 mins).

Uploaded by: MotivatingSuccess Video :: Famous failures - How to equal the greatest | External link - opens new tab/page

Famous Failures :: What they did about it

We know most of these famous people. We know them, perhaps, as some of the most successful people of all time. So why did they fail?

The answer is simple. Everyone needs to start somewhere. We all start from a basic position of no knowledge and no skill. We may have a talent or aptitude. Without development they will never be realised. If we do have them is not the main issue. The point is, these famous people saw that they could get past the failures. They made the effort to go to the next step; then to the next level.

Photographers, like everyone else, have to start somewhere. Inevitably starting out is difficult. So, we must expect our own fair share of failed attempts.

What takes you past failure?

Famous failures usually have two key attributes. First, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start again. Studies of successful people frequently show that they were prepared to fail. Not just once either, but many times.

The second key to success is the ability to be persistent. Famous failures will keep on doing, learning, trying, developing, improving and moving forward – regardless of what others say or do. They will, through adversity, keep their eye on the goal and do everything they can to succeed.

How do ‘famous failures’ help photographers?

Photography, like all pursuits has its difficulties. For us, the famous failures model is important. Many times I have been asked by my students what does it take to be a successful photographer? My answer is, “Don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying”. If you can do that you will learn all the things you need to learn. That is as true for each individual shot as it is for whole shoots and career moves.

(More after this…)


The Essence of Photography The Essence of Photography | External link - opens new tab/page
In this book, best-selling author and world-renowned photographer and teacher Bruce Barnbaum explores draws upon personal experience and observations from more than 40 years of photography and teaching. In addition to photographs, Bruce also uses painting, music, and writing, as well as the sciences and even business, to provide pertinent examples of creative thinking. The examples serve as stepping-stones to help heighten your ability to see and be creative.
The Essence of Photography The Essence of Photography | External link - opens new tab/page

 
Ignore failure, and with persistent effort, you will surpass those with talent and creativity who do not apply themselves. And, if you start out without as much talent and creativity as others, you will develop them along the way.

I am reminded of this quote:

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.
Zig Ziglar

This is equally true of the start-up photographer as it is for the keen hobbyist. You set your goals. You go for them.

Enjoy your photography!

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training courses in digital photography.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Essential gadgets for the everyday photographer

Essential gadgets for the photographer

A look at some essential gadgets for the photog…

Today’s article comes from: Jane Grates (Bio) from Sleeklens.com.

It is essential, and fun, to keep up-to-date with the latest trends. Gadgets occupy an important niche in our world of photography. In this article I look at the essential gadgets that are must-haves for the serious photographer.

essential gadgets for the photog

Look out for those essential gadgets…

SD Card holder

First, the basics. Lots of hardware to improve your performance as a photographer is wasted if you do not have enough space to store pictures. The storage issue can become a nuisance. Beat the problem and have many SD cards in order to prevent lack of drive space. This is particularly important for photographers who travel a lot.

Essential gadgets - The SD card holder.

Essential gadgets – The SD card holder.

Buying an SD card holder is a smart solution to the space problem. You can split your work over different SD cards to create a well organized library. Not only are you placing your work in a safe place, you are creating smart categories too.

A Tripod

A classic, the tripod is vital when dealing with heavy lenses or long exposure times. Night time photography is almost impossible without a tripod. The longer exposures are needed to capture low light levels.

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have. Look for one that suits the needs of your photo interests and for height and transportability. Higher quality tripods tend to be heavier, but this means they are less likely to blow over or vibrate in windy conditions.

xxx

A quality tripod is one of those essential gadgets we should all have.

Think how you will use your tripod. This will determine the price range. If you do your work mainly in a studio, or you are just starting your business, you can buy a simple model. If, on the other hand, you are a skilled photographer, you will want to buy a pricier, more adaptable one to last longer and endure the diverse conditions you may come across.

Lens Filters

You can create “filter effects” with post-production ‘presets’ in editing software. But you can skip a step by using on-camera filters. This will save incredible amounts of time in processing. Filters can help you avoid burned out images from strong sun if you use Polarized filters. The camera lens will react the way your eyes do when you use polarized sunglasses.

Polorising filter - one of the more essential gadgets.

Polarising filters help you deal with strong sunlight – one of the more essential gadgets.

Remember to buy a lens filter that fits your lens size. There are companion gadgets for filters. Step-up/down rings serve to create a perfect fit on lenses with non-standard formats or sizes. The latter are commonly seen on bridge cameras.

Remote shutter release

For long exposure times, or for portrait pictures including the photographer in the scene, remote shutter devices are handy tools. Simply grab your remote shutter release, place your camera on the tripod and let the action flow.

Remote shutter release - one of the essential gadgets.

Remote shutter release – one of the essential gadgets.

You can choose a remote shutter release from wired or wireless devices. I recommend buying a wired model, at times interference can be frustrating. Although, there are some very good models on the market recently. It is worth

Another remote shutter choice is a phone app. Not all camera models are supported. Some Canon and Nikon models are compatible with this feature. The apps are cheap, or free, saving some of your money. In fairness the latest remote shutters are not really expensive. Still, having a phone app will certainly guarantee that you won’t forget your remote shutter release wherever you go!

Weather cases

A common problem, as a photographer, is the sudden appearance of bad weather. It’s not good for using your camera! Don’t risk the investment you made in quality kit. Consider carrying a weather-safe case that fits your camera model, lenses and other accessories. Not only are you going to protect your beloved camera, but you can continue your shoot regardless of the conditions.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather - use a camera case.

Protect your beloved camera from bad weather – use a camera case.

Weather sealed cameras can benefit from this protection too. Water seals deteriorate over time. Other attached accessories are not all water proof as well. Don’t risk your device without even thinking about it.

Smart phone lenses

If you are a photographer on the go, you probably own a smartphone. Up to date models have a good camera. It can be a limitless source of creativity. However, smartphones are limited compared to modern DSLR cameras. They rarely have full and true manual controls. They lack the proper control of ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed settings.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

Smartphone add-on lenses open a new dimension for the photographer on the go.

A cool way to fix this issue is smartphone lenses. They come in a wide range of prices and with various features. Common base models of add-on smartphone lenses can do things that smartphone camera lenses can’t do. For example, fish-eye effect, macro or telephoto and other effects. More complex models, like the latest Sony QX-10, completely reinvents the smartphone lens concept. It boosts the smartphone with a professional quality sensor packed with manual controls. Even if it seems to be pricey, the result won’t disappoint.

Remember, the smartphone is a useful addition to the camera bag in its own right. Check out this post: Using tablets in photography.

Essential gadgets – more than just the camera… Photographer’s backpack

Like the tripod, photographers backpacks are a common classic. They provide storage for the camera, different lenses, as well as leaving room for other important items. Some are also designed to carry laptops, batteries, and much more. Avoid back packs that are not designed for photography. They can cause equipment damage. Specially designed packs let you carry equipment safely and help you pack efficiently.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Buy a good quality photographers bag to protect your equipment.

Consider buying a weatherproof backpack regardless of price. Protecting your working equipment is a top priority. Photographic equipment is highly sensitive to poor climate conditions. Most good quality packs come with slip-over water protection.

Also, be aware of the maximum weight supported by the backpack. Don’t over load it (or you). Avoid misuse, which will shorten the life expectancy of the product. Protect it from wear, chemicals and dust.

Essential gadgets are those that suit your needs

You can find countless options for complimenting your photography and workflow. Most will depend on the kinds of photography you decide to focus on. In the end, it is up to you to find the best equipment that will enhance your day-to-day photography. Everyone has their own special “essential gadgets”… What are yours?

Feed your imagination…

Here are some more essential gadgets for photographers on Amazon.
Check out this Google search on essential gadgets for photographers!

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Still life – building the atmosphere

Lights and subject need to be arranged

Building the shot is about both the set up of the still life and the set up of lights to bring out the best in the final image.
(Image from the video)

There is more to still life than meets the eye…

Doing a still life is not just about getting your subject set up. Your subject should satisfy your creative goal, create an attractive feast for the eye and look natural. Making your work both artistic and natural is essential. Otherwise you will not convince the viewer.

So what is needed beyond a convincing subject?

When you are building an artistic shot the central place is occupied by something you have put together to make a point – your subject. It is a point that’s either artistic or interesting to the eye. Around the subject you will need to build an atmosphere to make it convincing.

Still life – the atmosphere

When you have your subject set up right set it in the right atmosphere.

Making the atmosphere right brings it all together. More often than not it is all about complementary lighting. Get the lighting right and the atmosphere of the subject and setting (background) come together.

Some of the issues you might consider are…

  • Light sources.
  • Colour of the lights.
  • Tonality of the shadow/light relationship.
  • Where the light points.
  • How intense to make the light(s).
  • should you use soft light or hard light.
  • If you want highlights or not.
  • If you want spot lights or not.
  • How diffused to make the light.
  • How tightly focussed to make the light.
  • Alternative combinations of light.
Still life lighting experimentation

There is little doubt. The only way to success with light is by experiment. But, have an idea in your head first.

Consider your subject and think about the ways it can be offset by the use of light. Colours should not clash. Highlights should be complementary. Avoid big highlights so as not to blow out large areas of white in the image. (Here is a link that can help with dealing with blown highlights). Make your light pick out the important parts of your set. Let shadow subdue the less important parts.

Many people forget about colour setting. Bring out the colour of your subject. Try to make your still life look lifelike. However, use your light to bring the colours out in the surrounding area of the set too. This will help your subject to look like it is influencing the surroundings of the set. In other words, remember, light onto the subject is often reflected off it too.

Putting it all together

Lighting is a skill that comes only with practice. The way to be successful is to build it up bit by bit. First get your photographic subject right. Then start the lighting. Work on both the subject and the surrounding background. Try to see ways to blend the light. Use light as if solving a puzzle. Work to fit everything together into an aesthetic outcome.

It is your eye for aesthetics that will tell you when you have got it right. Learning how to do that comes by studying different lighting situations. Try to find as many ways to combine light to bring out your subject as possible. Study other still life photos for the way the light is set up. Try to analyse the light and find ways to reproduce it in your own situation. Work toward building an expertise with light.
Here are some still life images to help. Google search: Still life photography images xxxx | External link - opens new tab/page.

Still life ‘How To’ – Shoot red wine

The video helps us get our ideas in place. Practice and analysis go together. The presenters help us see how this simple still life is lit using a complex of lights. What is interesting about this video is the way that so much emphasis is placed on lighting not directly on the subject. Much of the atmosphere here is about complementing the subject with the right colours too. Watch for the different uses of hard and soft light as well.

Karl Taylor Still life: 'How To' shoot red wine | External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training courses ing digital photography.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.